It is an age-old question that has deterred many accident victims from moving forward to fight for any sort of financial relief. The truth is, you can still file a lawsuit even if you were involved in an accident where you weren’t wearing your seatbelt – but certain criteria must be met.
At Lapeze & Johns, we have made it our mission to inform the public of what rights they have when it comes to seeking damages in car accidents they have been involved in. Even if you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, that doesn’t immediately disqualify you obtaining the recovery you deserve.
First thing’s first, let’s address the elephant in the room. Driving without a seatbelt is reckless and against the law in Texas. It can lead to serious injury or even death, and no amount of damages is worth the loss of life, limb, or a loved one.
Drive safe. Always drive with your seatbelt buckled!
Texas Changed Its Ways
For over 40 years, Texas law primarily sought to determine which party’s negligence caused the accident. Whether or not an individual involved in an accident was wearing a seatbelt was not to be considered in a claim.
In 2015, this particular practice changed.
What spurred this change can be attributed to a truck accident that knocked a car off of the road, killing one and injuring seven. The trucking company that was involved in this case tried to reduce their liability by introducing evidence showing that seven of the eight total plaintiffs had not been wearing their seatbelts.
During this case, it was discovered that:
- The court can determine the extent of damages sustained due to a lack of wearing a seatbelt in an accident.
- Passengers can be held partially responsible for injuries sustained if they failed to wear a seatbelt at the time of the accident.
- The defense must be able to prove that seatbelts were not fastened.
Every car or truck accident is different, and while not wearing a seatbelt may affect the amount of damages you are able to recover, you can still file a lawsuit to attempt to acquire said damages.
The Modified Comparative Negligence System and How It Can Affect Your Case
Just like in any other car or truck accident claim, the first thing that must be established is responsibility. Who caused the accident that in turn caused the injuries?
Yet, there is one key difference when it comes to determining damages that are paid out when a victim wasn’t wearing their seatbelt.
The modified comparative negligence system that is used in Texas courts essentially assesses the percentage amount of responsibility the individual had on their own injuries if they were not wearing a seatbelt. The compensation awarded is then reduced by that amount.
Say if you were to win a truck accident case and earned $1 million in compensation. If you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, and it was determined that you caused 25 percent of your own injuries, you would instead be awarded a total of $750,000 in damages.
Currently, there is no clear-cut way to determine just how much of your injuries are your fault, but the Texas comparative negligence system follows strict rules such as:
- If it was discovered that you did not act negligently in your accident, full compensation will be awarded to you as determined by the court.
- If it is discovered that you share negligence but it is less than 51 percent of the total responsibility, the compensation you win will be reduced by whatever the percentage you are deemed responsible for.
- If you are found negligent of more than 51 percent of the total responsibility or higher, you will not be able to recover any damages.
It is best to keep in mind that you are not alone when it comes to fighting for your compensation regardless if you wore a seatbelt or not. If you have suffered because of a car or truck accident that was not your fault, the car and truck accident attorneys at Lapeze & Johns want to hear from you.
Don’t go on forgotten. If you have been in an accident but weren’t wearing a seatbelt, you can still have your voice heard.
We pride ourselves at Lapeze & Johns on being a voice for the people of Houston and surrounding areas that need experienced legal representation. If you have been involved in an accident, even if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, do not hesitate to contact us at (713) 739-1010 today.
When looking for quality car accident attorneys near you, depend on Lapeze & Johns.